At Media Shower, we’ve created hundreds of ebooks for our clients.
Now, we’re sharing our secrets.
This guide will cover our best practices for B2B ebooks, with great examples and copy-and-paste outlines. We’ll cover the ideal length and layout with creative ideas on how you can innovate on the usual ebook format. And we’ll give you our answer to that age-old marketing question: to gate, or not to gate?
What is an Ebook?
If you type “ebook” into Google, you’ll most likely run into pages referring to electronic books: fiction, non-fiction, or books for popular consumption.
For B2B marketers, ebooks refer to long-form brochures, usually offered as downloadable PDFs, that share some common traits:
- Length: B2B ebooks are longer than your typical blog post. The average length of a B2B ebook is 10-30 pages, but keep in mind that’s with formatting and graphics (say, a few thousand words). Some ebooks can range as long as 50+ pages, but remember your target B2B customer is busy.
- Scope: Ebooks focus on product awareness, thought leadership, and industry trends. As such, they usually go much deeper than blog posts. They’re well-designed and easy to read, not the dense technical style you might see in a whitepaper.
- Intent: Ebooks are often “lead magnets,” which means they attract potential sales leads, who have to fill out a form to download the PDF. They are often “pillar pieces” of content, meaning they will serve as a centerpiece that can be promoted via blogs, social media, webinars, etc.
- Design: Ebooks usually include beautiful visual design. The text should be broken up with lots of “eye candy”: beautiful photos, detailed graphs and charts, and callout boxes. Think “magazine layout,” if you remember magazines.
Your ebook might include real-life data points like these:
- 72% of B2B buyers say they will consume at least three pieces of content before contacting a company. (DemandGen Report)
- 48% of B2B marketers use ebooks in their content strategy. (Seomator)
- 67% of B2B content teams signal that Top-of-Funnel (TOFU) content is what they create the most. (Databox)
While not as widely used as email or social media (because they’re harder to produce), ebooks are among the most powerful assets to convert TOFU and MOFU customers into meaningful sales leads. If the ebook is valuable enough, people will give you their email address to download it.
Best Practices for Writing Ebooks
At Media Shower, we’ve produced hundreds of ebooks for clients – and measured the results. Here are a few pro tips that we’ve learned:
- Tell a Story: According to a LinkedIn report of B2B Marketing Benchmarks, 50% highlighted storytelling as the top creative skill expected from marketers. The most powerful ebooks tell real-life case studies or success stories about how the company made a difference to the customer.
Example: Semrush, The Content Marketing Starter Kit for Your Business
- Focus on Actionable Insights: Analyze your audience’s demographics, interests, and needs. For B2B marketers, this means diving into your target businesses’ industry-specific challenges and pain points. Tailoring your content to address these concerns will make your ebook more relevant and valuable.
Example: Influencer Marketing Institute, Influencer Marketing: The Latest Strategies, Templates, and Tools
- Consider Approachable Content: Ensure your writing is clear, concise, and free of jargon that could alienate readers. Ebooks should include more in-depth information than, say, a blog post but should also maintain an eye toward readability and conversion that you may not find in a whitepaper.
Example: Velocity Partners, The New B2B Marketing Manifesto
- Focus on Navigable Design and Layout: An attractive design and a user-friendly layout can significantly enhance the readability of your ebook. Use a clean, professional layout with well-organized sections. Include relevant images, infographics, and charts to break up text and illustrate key points. Remember, the design should complement the content, not distract from it.
Example: Hotjar, Master the Art of Delighting Customers
- Advanced Research and Data Utilization: Dive deep into industry-specific research and data analysis. Utilize studies, surveys, and the latest market research to back your insights and recommendations. This approach adds credibility and provides your audience with valuable, data-driven insight.
Example: Hubspot, The Ultimate Google Ads PPC Kit
- Emphasize Social Proof: No matter what the ultimate goal of your ebook is, you should include plenty of social proof in the form of testimonials, quotes, customer stories, and use cases.
Example: Freshworks, The Art of Customer Experience
Take advantage of the format. Ebooks are more like snazzy brochures or beautiful magazine articles. Tell a story, and surround it with callouts and color. Make it scannable and skimmable, because most of your B2B customers are busy. Boldface important points, so they’ll be remembered.
Great Examples of B2B Ebooks
Concentric: How Prescriptive Analytics Provides a Roadmap to Your Revenue Target
This ebook is a wonderful example of how in-depth information is succinctly presented in an ebook focusing on skimmability. Each page contains a specific idea with small, easy-to-read content and data visualization that immediately catches the reader’s eye. It is organized logically with a clear table of contents that moves from an explanation of the topic (analytics) into applications of analytics and the tools needed to succeed.
Salesforce: Realize Your Company’s Vision
Salesforce is well-regarded as a veritable publishing house of long-form ebook content. This example highlights how they use the format as a thought leadership vehicle. While denser (and less data-centric) than our previous example, Realize Your Company’s Vision highlights the industry ethos that Salesforce commands to solve a real problem with major enterprises–aligning brand vision with a workforce culture. This also allows them to position themselves and their Expeditions consulting product as the solution to that problem.
TopRank Marketing: Breaking Free of Boring B2B
In an example of an interactive ebook, TopRank Marketing uses the AI-assisted tool Ceros to build an ebook with movable images, content, and a more interactive feel. More importantly, the design and the interactivity fit the theme–switching up “stuffy” B2B marketing with something more engaging.
Your results may vary in terms of innovation, but TopRank brings something new to the table and, in doing so, provides real industry and thought leadership that reflects well on the brand and the team involved (all of whom are highlighted in the ebook).
Outlining an Ebook
Here’s a sample outline for a 10-15-page ebook on a fictional product, the NexaShield Dashboard, focused on highlighting this product as a solution to an industry-defining challenge:
“Revolutionizing Network Security: The NexaShield Dashboard Story”
- Summary: This section sets the stage for the ebook, introducing NexaPoint Tech and the evolving network security landscape. It briefly touches upon enterprises’ emerging challenges and how NexaPoint Tech is responding with innovative solutions like the NexaShield Dashboard.
- Strategic Purpose: Establishes credibility and context, positioning NexaPoint Tech as a thought leader in network security.
Chapter 1: The Evolving Threat Landscape
- Summary: Discusses the current state of network security, highlighting recent threats and breaches. This chapter provides statistics and real-world examples to demonstrate cyber threats’ growing complexity and frequency.
- Strategic Purpose: To educate readers about the urgency and relevance of advanced network security solutions.
Chapter 2: Understanding SIEM and Its Importance
- Summary: Provides a deep dive into Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), explaining what it is and why it’s crucial for modern enterprises. It covers the evolution of SIEM technologies over time.
- Strategic Purpose: To build foundational knowledge that underscores the value of the NexaShield Dashboard.
Chapter 3: The Cost of Insecurity
- Summary: Examines the tangible and intangible costs of network breaches, including data loss, financial impact, and damage to brand reputation. This chapter uses case studies to illustrate these points.
- Strategic Purpose: To convey the high stakes involved in network security, setting the stage for the solution offered by NexaShield Dashboard.
Chapter 4: NexaShield Dashboard: A Game Changer
- Summary: Introduces NexaShield Dashboard, detailing its features, functionalities, and how it addresses the gaps in traditional network security approaches.
- Strategic Purpose: Directly introduces the product as a solution to the problems outlined in previous chapters.
Chapter 5: Seamless Integration
- Summary: Focuses on the user-friendly aspect of NexaShield Dashboard, its ease of integration with existing systems, and the minimal learning curve for IT teams.
- Strategic Purpose: Emphasizes product usability, appealing to decision-makers concerned about implementation and user adoption.
Chapter 6: Real-Time Monitoring and Response
- Summary: With examples and scenarios, it delves into NexaShield’s real-time monitoring capabilities, showcasing how it can proactively detect and respond to threats.
- Strategic Purpose: Highlights a vital feature of the product, illustrating its proactive nature in security management.
Chapter 7: Compliance and Industry Standards
- Summary: Discusses how NexaShield Dashboard helps enterprises meet various compliance requirements (like GDPR or HIPAA) and the importance of compliance in network security.
- Strategic Purpose: Addresses the compliance concerns of businesses, an essential consideration for many organizations.
Chapter 8: Case Studies and Success Stories
- Summary: Features a collection of case studies and testimonials from diverse industries, showing how NexaShield Dashboard has effectively bolstered their network security.
- Strategic Purpose: Provides social proof and real-world validation of the product’s effectiveness.
Chapter 9: Looking Ahead – The Future of Network Security
- Summary: Explores future trends in network security and how NexaPoint Tech, particularly NexaShield Dashboard, is poised to evolve and address these emerging challenges.
- Strategic Purpose: Positions NexaPoint Tech as a forward-thinking leader committed to continuous innovation.
- Summary: Wraps up the ebook with a recap of key points, reiterating the value proposition of NexaShield Dashboard, and includes a call-to-action encouraging readers to explore the product further or contact NexaPoint Tech for more information.
- Strategic Purpose: To consolidate the information presented and gently guide readers toward taking the next step in their engagement with NexaPoint Tech.
The Future of Ebooks
For marketers looking to innovate, here are a few additional creative spins you can put on the format:
- Interactive Elements: ebooks are becoming more interactive, incorporating elements like embedded videos, hyperlinks, animations, and graphs. (Even the humble PDF has a wide array of interactive features: here’s a guide.)
- Accessibility: Making ebooks accessible to all, including those with disabilities, is a key trend. This involves using accessible design principles, ensuring compatibility with screen readers, and providing alternative text for images. With the rise of voice technology, ebooks are increasingly being optimized for voice assistants and audio playback. Consider audio ebooks and podcasts.
- Serialization: There’s a growing trend towards short-form ebooks or using ebooks as a jumping-off point for serial content. One Media Shower client created a series of superhero-themed ebooks, each highlighting an aspect of their SaaS platform that gave the customer “superpowers.”
Gated vs. Ungated Ebooks: Which is Better?
We always get this question: “Should I gate my ebooks”? Which means, “Should I require people to sign up for the ebook, or should I just make it available for free?”
Our answer is simple and strong: GATE THE EBOOK. As a B2B marketer, your job is to drive leads. Ebooks are one of the most powerful tools you’ve got; why would you just give them away?
Here’s what you get with gating:
- Lead Generation: Whether they’re qualified or not, they’re interested enough in the topic to give you their contact information. This creates an opportunity for sales follow-up and nurturing.
- Measurable ROI: Gated content provides tangible metrics (like the number of downloads) that help in measuring the return on investment of the content marketing strategy.
- Exclusivity: Requiring information makes the ebook seem more valuable because it’s exclusive. This is counterintuitive for some marketers, but just think about how “exclusive” nightclubs seem more exciting than ordinary bars.
This is not to say that you always want to put your ebook behind a form. You can use ebooks as sales leave-behinds, webinar follow-ups, or special bonuses for newsletter subscribers. Note, however, that these tactics are for people already on your list.
We’ve seen multiple examples of customers who ungated dozens of ebooks against our advice. It usually ends in tears a few months later when their lead pipeline dries up, and the CEO angrily demands to know who ungated all the valuable ebooks.
The lesson is clear: gate your ebooks. Put them behind a form. If you want ungated content, then put it on your blog.
Ebooks have a long history in B2B marketing, with good reason. They’re an effective way to show thought leadership and product features, they can be endlessly creative and drive real, measurable marketing results.
More importantly, these assets give your customer prospects a deeper dive into your company. They will see this information as more important and valuable, because it’s beautifully designed, and because they gave you their email address to get access to it.
Ebooks are the cornerstone of any good B2B content marketing strategy. At Media Shower, we’ve done hundreds of them. Check out a great example here.